How to be a freelance journalist: real advice from another young, unknown journalist on freelancing

I am not going back to freelancing.

Last month, I came on full-time with Technically Media, a company I helped launch and produces Technically Philly.

Still, going back on my own, in some form, has returned me to thinking about and combing through some of the advice I collected in 2009, during my year freelancing.

Too many of those perspectives and resources seemed valuable to not share.

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Focus: my goal for 2011; Growth: my experience in 2010

About a year ago, in December 2009, I was sitting in my living room with two friends.

I had no heat, two plastic chairs and a coffee table. I was chasing down the last of that year’s freelancing invoices to make about $16,000.

I was certainly still privileged for an endless list of reasons, but, to put it shortly, for a lot of reasons, 2009 was a miserable year for me. The three of us all had disappointing years. We all agreed that 2010 was going to better. Much, much better.

What I did do last year was reflect on 2009 and decided upon a theme: slow start.

I haven’t paid it much mind until now, but I think that’s a great task, summing up a year and trying to move in the direction of another for the following year. In that post, I suggested 2010 would have to be a year of ‘next steps.’

Basically, I need a thousand flowers to bloom so I could see which one I wanted to pick.

As expected, 2010 was a much, much better year. It was a year of tremendous growth for me, and, yes, next steps, as I’ll reflect upon below.

But now, with all of this growth, it is time to pick. Fitting the professional goals and the personal resolutions I’ve set, my theme or my overarching goal for 2011 is focus.

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My 10 Most trafficked posts of 2010

You can learn a lot by looking at what you’ve done over a year.

So, while I try to get better at making goals and sticking to them, I have an eye to my work here, because this has always been a place for experimentation and learning, where I develop my thoughts, my writing and my style.

So, like I did last year and the year before, I’ve looked at the 15 most trafficked posts I’ve written here.

Looking at the list I think there are two specific lessons to be learned:

  • Original Reporting rocks — It’s just what I saw in Technically Philly’s roundup of top stories. In this list of 10, seven featured first-issue original reporting, two offered insider commentary and one offered a strong opinion. No aggregation, summaries or general perspective made it to the list, though I do all those kinds of posts too and those kind of posts dominated my 2008 list and had more influence on my 2009 list.
  • Time matters — This site gets a relatively low-level of traffic (the top post on this list received fewer than 500 hits this year), so the sheer amount of time a post is up is magnified. With bigger traffic sites, the first week of traffic can largely overcome a long tail. However in my case, just one of the 10 posts was created in the last four months, and I don’t think that’s due to lack of relatively meaningful content. So, with lower traffic sites, the longer a post is up has a greater impact on its overall traffic than with higher traffic sites.

That said, here are the posts. Draw your own conclusions:

10. Newsworks: WHYY online news brand launching means a lot to these legacies — Nov. 22

Find the other nine below.

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Technically Media Inc.: introducing a media services consultancy

Simply put, we build audiences.

At the beginning of December, I left another role and promised greater details on what I would doing. Here’s a start.

In the past few weeks, I’ve chosen a payroll services company, applied for tax status, requested a business operating license, closed an existing account and otherwise finalized the incorporation of a new business, of which I am now a full-time employee, answering early a resolution of mine.

Technically Media Inc. is a media services consultancy with three founders: Sean Blanda, Brian James Kirk and myself.

And, while I could get you lost in the details, all you really need to know that at its simplest form, we build audiences online.

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